Friday, July 19, 2019

The Sports Hangover....of a different kind

All week, I suffered from a mini-hangover. It lingered. It came and went at a varying intensity. I didn't get this hangover from too much wine or champagne, or even vodka on the rocks. No, this hangover was different. Though I wasn't physically sick, I can't deny it was there. Sports fans might understand; I know many athletes do.
The 2019 men's final at Wimbledon was truly one of the ages, an instant classic. But, I couldn't let go of the outcome. As I recalled the match with friends, I couldn't help but feel bummed—for a lack of a better word. The 37-year old number two player in the world, Roger Federer didn't lose a single game. He did, however, lose the match. Staving off two match points—his opponent—Novak Djokovic beat him in three tie breaks in five sets. As much as I felt the loss—that ache, I wondered What it must feel like for the athlete, for their spouse, their coach, "team" and friends? Hungover, but in a different kind of way, is my guess.

I have read about said hangovers before. In the movie "Venus and Serena" Venus Williams, a five time Wimbledon champion admitted that after she lost, she didn't get out of bed for a week. Phil Mickelson has as much before, too. It wasn't after his fatal fall at the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot. According to Golf News.Net 
The reigning (British) Open champion had what he described was his best chance to finally capture the elusive U.S. Open in June. Instead, he came up short against Justin Rose, posting a sixth second-place finish in the championship -- only adding to a record no one wants to own. 
In an appearance on 'Today" on NBC,  Mickelson said, "My worst, hardest loss of my career was the U.S. Open just a month ago. For days, I didn’t get out of bed; I was tired." 
Once again, however, it was Mickelson's family that helped pulled him out of the funk. 
"It was a trip that we had to Montana that kind of got me out of my funk and I realized that I’m playing great golf, and I can’t let one loss affect the rest of my year," he said.

Fortunately for Fed, the circumstances are slightly different. There is no Grand Slam out of his reach. With eight single's championships, he is not only the winningest man in Wimbledon history, he has twelve others, 20 major championships in all. But what made this win so desirable is to see what we don't often see in a sport like tennis. The great enemy of every athlete is age. Fed responded to that truth by smiling and sharing "I hope I give some other people a chance to believe that at 37, it's not over yet." It does. And BTW: The Maestro will be 38 when he plays the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open.

I think it is important to feel these hangovers and to let them linger. That storm cloud may need to rain for one day, or maybe for three. But it's not a condition or characteristic of today's athletes alone. In the film 'Hogan: Perseverance" Bantam Ben Hogan admitted his struggle in defeat. 

On the 71st hole of the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills Country Club, in Denver CO, Hogan hit a wedge loaded with backspin that went into the water, essentially ending what was another bid for a fifth championship title. He said, "I find myself walking up at night thinking of that shot. Right today. How many years has that been? That's been 23 years ago and there isn't a month that goes by that that doesn't cut my guts out." Wow. 
I don't know what Fed will say weeks, months or even years after the loss. Business Insider wrote,
After the match, Federer was graceful in defeat, joking with the crowd while speaking in his post-match interview. Federer was congratulated for his brilliant performance, with BBC presenter and former Grand Slam champion Sue Barker saying it was a final we would "remember forever."
"I will try to forget," Federer replied, earning laughs and cheers from the crowd.
I'm not sure he will...or I will. I do not believe that a person is strange or selfish, if they are depressed or down after a loss. Why? These contests and competitions are great because we see humanity at its best. We see men and women giving everything—physically, emotionally and spiritually. They literally having nothing left in the tank. Their cup cannot runneth over, that is, unless it's spiked with adrenaline. 

Family, friends and fans can't expect to see one face of greatness—the joy, exuberance and triumph without realizing there might be another. 
The fortnight of Wimbledon is a special time of year. New wine was poured into both new and old wineskins. We drank it all. In spite of the "other" type of hangover, I'd do it again. Thank you Fed. Congratulations Joker!

Photo Credits
Heart on hand
Loss at Merion
Staying Positive
Tough Loss

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